“Priscilla Perfect” – that is the moniker attached to one of Lorna Dallas’ many roles on the stage, and while the first name does not suit her at all in her current persona (she is definitely not prissy), the surname is just right. She is pitch perfect, and perfect in every other way. In fact, it is not fair to talk about her persona, in the sense of playing a different character from her true self. Miss Dallas was evidently being just herself, a warm and friendly person (not persona), but giving us the full range of her musical and dramatic talent.
Crazy Coqs, just a stone’s throw from Piccadilly Circus, is an ideal venue for cabaret, allowing the desired intimacy and rapport between audience and singer to flourish. With only her musical director for the company – and what an accompanist he is, making that grand piano the consummate backdrop to Miss Dallas’ performance – our hostess took us through the stages of her life, from small-town Illinois to treading the boards on Broadway and the West End, those other ‘stages’. Her life story, full of unexpected and amusing twists, is interspersed with a carefully-selected list of songs largely drawn from the Great American Song Book and the treasure house of musical theatre from the 1920s to the 1970s. Some of the numbers were wholly unfamiliar to me, so I had no other versions to compare hers with, but her interpretation of the well-known songs was original and dazzling.
Miss Dallas displays a marvellous virtuosity and a great stage presence. She is as much actress as a singer, running the gamut of emotions with a wonderful precision of gesture and expression. But most striking of all is that voice. It can hit the highest notes with great power but can be softly modulated with great delicacy. Once or twice a tear came to my eye, not because it was a sad song, but because it was so beautifully expressed. Another striking technical feature is that her diction is unusually well articulated. Every word can be distinctly heard.
Miss Dallas’ set begins with an amusing take on There’s No Business Like Show Business and ends neatly with If All The World’s A Stage, taking in classics along the way such as Blues In The Night. She makes you believe that “a man is a two-faced, a worrisome thing, who’ll leave you to sing the blues in the night.” The audience was on their feet at the end of the performance. And what a performance it had been! This was a night to remember, and truly an antidote to the blues.